Welcome to the blog that's all about me (and that means a lot of NASCAR, college football and more NASCAR)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Canada ends with wild finish

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series went to Canada over the weekend and the race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park was all the talk, especially after the crazy, wild finish in the final turns between youngsters Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek.

John Hunter Nemechek
Nemechek chased down Custer in an “overtime” finish. On the final lap Custer led into the final corner when Nemechek—the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joe Nemechek—bumped his truck out of the way and the two trucks went door-to-door down a wall in some grass to the finish line.

Nemechek edged Custer for the win, his second of the season, locking his truck into the Truck Series Chase which begins in a few weeks in New Hampshire. Custer, who sits ninth, one spot outside the Chase, needed the win to lock his team into the Chase.

After the race Nemechek parked his truck on the frontstretch and did some celebratory donuts. As he approached the flag stand, looking to celebrate with the checkered flag, Custer ran out onto the track and attempted to tackle Nemechek in a now-viral moment.

Social media sites lit up with reactions.NASCAR drivers weighed in. Fans and media members gave their take on Nemechek’s move and Custer’s reaction. Custer and Nemechek also told reporters their side of the story.

Who was in the right? Who was in the wrong? According to NASCAR the move was legal. NASCAR is, as many executives have said before, “a contact sport.” But will this one move live on for the rest of the season, if not longer?

Remember last season when Matt Kenseth bodied Joey Logano at Martinsville? Remember when Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon tangled on and off the track at Phoenix a few years ago?

Custer at Kentucky this year
To me, this ending was a double edged sword. It was fun to watch two young drivers tangle for a win. Could it have been cleaner? I believe so. Could the tackle and post-race fracas have been avoided? Probably so, but as much as we clamor for pure emotion and want to see some passion erupt, when does the entertainment cross the line and give the sport a black eye?

While the tackle didn’t turn into a full-on brawl, the finish was only half the story on Sunday. The beating and banging that some fans clamor for turned into a post-race scuffle that may make highlight tapes for ages. It wasn’t ugly, which was a good thing. Fighting is bad when it crosses the line. But the outpouring of emotions from a frustrated driver and his team was perfectly acceptable on Sunday from Custer and his team.

“I didn’t know he was going to come over there and do that but there’s a lot of tempers that fly,” said Nemechek. “It’s an emotional sport; it’s a competitive sport; that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

How it will go moving forward will be interesting to see. The ending was wild on Sunday. It was crazy. Could it have been better? Potentially. Will it leave a black eye on the sport? Probably not.

I’m willing to bet that the rest of the Camping World Truck Series season will be must-watch TV though, not that it wasn’t going to be before Sunday.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Truex wins Southern 500, launches momentum toward Chase

Martin Truex Jr. nearly won the Daytona 500 in February and dominated the Coke 600 on Memorial Day weekend. It was just fitting that the Mayetta, N.J. native had a good run in another crown jewel event on the NASCAR schedule: The Bojangles Southern 500. Despite having been snakebitten in the past two season on so many occasions when it looked like he had the most dominant car in the field, Truex delivered on Sunday evening in Darlington to capture his second victory of the year as the Chase for the Sprint Cup nears.

Truex's No. 78 at Indianapolis in July
“It's been a good season,” said Truex Sunday night. “It's got potential to be a really great season. I think that based on the team we have and the way we've been running, I mean, we could honestly be sitting here with seven, eight, nine wins if things had gone a little different here and there. 

“But with that being said, we've got two, and I really feel like we've got a legitimate shot at this championship.”

It was his team’s second win at the track, the first being an improbable run by Regan Smith in 2011, but it was Truex’s first. The significance of winning such an important race on the schedule at an iconic track was not lost of Truex.

Honestly this has always been one of my favorite tracks,” he said. “I've wanted to win here so bad, and I've led a bunch of races here in Cup car and felt like I was in position or had chances to win this race before, or just to win at this track in general, and I've had a few heartbreakers here. 

“To finally get it done was sweet. I can't tell you how it felt. I honestly took the checkered flag, and I was like, I cannot believe I just won the Southern 500. The history, the tradition here, to see the Hall of Famers before the race, and talked to Cale Yarborough and all those guys, it's just amazing.”

Truex has two wins this season
Truex came very close to winning the championship last season, qualifying as one of the final four drivers to be eligible to win the trophy at Homestead last fall, but he said his team didn’t quite have what it took to compete for the title.

This year, however, feels different, and Truex knows it.

“I'm just humbled, he commented. “I'm just proud to be in this position to drive for such a great team, and hopefully it's something we can continue to do here the next 11 races.”

The Sprint Cup Series will close out the final “regular season” race of the year Saturday evening at Richmond and the field of 16 participants for the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be set after the race. Truex is in, and a tight battle rages for the final “playoff” spots. It should be fun to see the battles all over the track Saturday night.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Decade Behind the Scenes: UC Bearcats football season kicks off today

A popular ESPN college football promotional ad ends with simple text: “Get up. It’s gameday.”

In 2007 I started this now ten-season long journey at UC as a student in the video office. My job was pretty simple: film practices and games for a man in his first year as head coach at UC, Brian Kelly. In the past nine years my job has evolved in numerous ways.

The 2016 Video Squad (minus one guy)
I went four years as an undergrad, two in graduate school and now I’m entering my fourth year as a full-time employee in the video office. This will be my third in charge of the department—if you want to call it that—where we’re still in charge of filming practices and games, but now we also do so much more.

Social media? Check. Graphics? Check. Building hype for players and fans? Well, we try. It’s a constantly evolving state of affairs in college football, just as it is in the video world.

When I began my journey here as a student I was handed a big, old camera that filmed on a big tape. I had no clue how to turn it on. Now I lead a group of six students who use cameras half the size I used and film goes on SD chips that are probably one-tenth the size of those old DVC Pro tapes we used to use.

Now I "watch" games from behind a computer screen
I couldn’t have made it this far without some help, some luck and some determination. My first gameday, oddly enough also on a Thursday, was a game against Southeast Missouri State (SEMO) that the Bearcats handily won 59-3. I stood in the pressbox and helped the then-video coordinator John Sells tag and mark plays as they happened on our laptop system we used back then to capture games.

By the middle of the 2007 season I was shooting endzone coaches film for our staff, a job I held until the end of the 2013 season. I was promoted in the middle of spring practices in 2014 to be the head guy and we haven’t skipped a beat since then.

Being in charge is a little different. There are days I dream of being one of my students again, having the chance to show up in the middle of the day and film practice, help out around the office in the early evening and head home early, but then I’m faced with a fun or exciting opportunity that reminds me why I enjoy the challenges of the job I now have.

The 2015 @UCFBVideo staff in Hawaii
It’s a grind for sure, but it’s a grind that has taken me to Hawaii twice now in the month of December, and there is nothing to complain about there! This season will be a fun one. It will be a challenging one for sure (in case you didn’t hear, all of our student-athletes now have iPads and our office is in charge of assisting our players and coaches with their iPad needs. It’s been hectic, but the iPads will help us on and off the field which is a cool thing for everyone involved) but without challenges my job would be a little boring.

I have three new students and a staff of six total. It’s been fun watching my older students help teach the new guys as they have learned the pace and frenetic activities that involve being behind the lens of a camera for a Division I football program.

The season starts today, even though we have been waiting longer than a pregnancy to get rolling since our last game. I hope to see everyone in Nippert Stadium this season. It’s crazy to think this is year ten here at UC, and hopefully it’s just as good, just as memorable as all the years prior.

Get up. It’s gameday.